Last November 19, the Philippines witnessed the true meaning of sports as it hosted the Special Olympics Southeast Asia Unified Five-A-Side Football Tournament. This was the fifth edition of the regional tourney and the first to be held in the country. 

Unifying Through Sports

The dream event became reality through the leadership of the Special Olympics, a worldwide organization that offers sports training and competitions for those with mental disabilities. “The Special Olympics strives to create a better world by fostering acceptance and inclusion for all through the power of sports,” says Kaye Samson, the National Director of Special Olympics Philippines,

In particular, the Special Olympics’ UNIFIED SPORTS ® program is an initiative that sets out to bring together people, with or without disabilities, to compete on the same teams. “It was inspired by a simple principle: that training and playing together is a path that leads to friendship, understanding, and inclusion for all, regardless of race, gender, religion or ability”, Ms. Samson explains.

Special Olympics was "all out" for every athlete at the tournament.

Special Olympics Philippines was “all out” for every athlete at the tournament.

All In for Everyone

The special football tournament is played annually within the Southeast Asian region, and this tournament marked the first time it was held in the Philippines. Teams from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand competed in several football matches. There was also the Unified Sports Experience match, a special game where several of the organization’s close partners and sponsors fielded representatives to play with the athletes.

Whether you were an athlete or a supporter of the games, there was a match waiting for you.

Whether you were an athlete or a supporter of the games, there was a match waiting for you.

E-Sports International, a firm believer in the transformative ability of sports, made contributions towards the participants’ shirts and awards. Johann Casal and Lia Calingacion of E-Sports participated in the Unified Sports Experience match.

“I was so inspired to see the athletes playing the sport they love, with nothing stopping them.” says Calingacion. According to her, seeing all the special athletes compete is proof that football is more than just a game. “I saw that, for them, disabilities are only called as such if you let them stop you from doing something.”

E-Sports International provided special shirts and the awards for the tournament.

E-Sports International provided special shirts and the awards for the tournament.

Messages of Hope and Unity

The event has only solidified the belief of Ms. Samson—and that of many others in the Philippine sports community—that the game of football is not simply about the final score. Ms. Samson speaks of how “we achieved friendship and inclusion, on and off the field, and these are what matter the most. It was a great experience for Special Olympics Philippines to host the event.”

“We are very proud that E-Sports was part of the first international Unified event that Special Olympics Philippines has ever hosted. Thank you for joining us in promoting humanity, passion, friendship and inclusion,” said Samson.

On behalf of E-Sports International, Calingacion said that this is all part of the company’s advocacy. “Years down the line, giving even the slightest push to potential athletes goes a long way. That eventually goes back to accomplishing our mission of raising the quality of Philippine sports.”

On that day, E-Sports and everyone who played were winners.

On that day, E-Sports and everyone who played were winners.

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E-Sports International is a proud partner of Special Olympics Philippines.

Click here to learn more about the organization and its programs, or contact Philippine National Director Kaye Samson at ksamson.sop@gmail.com.

Photos ℅ Ms. Kaye Samson

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